Grand Indonesia is one of those malls that keeps the booming F&B industry alive: This year, they’ve decided to replace a spacious fountain area with the popular Japanese pasta chain, Popolamama.
A portmanteau of popolare and mama, the 1995-established chain aims to bring the popular Italian notion that the best foods are those made by mothers – freshly homemade, crafted with care, and delightfully filled with love.
Turns out that the Japanese agree. In just 14 years, they’ve spurted to 170 stores nationwide. With JC Comsaa franchising the chain beyond Japan, Popolamama quickly became a sensation in Jakarta this year, first standing at Sudirman Plaza and with the latest outlet being this one.
So what makes Popolamama any more different than the bulk of Italian restaurants and other pasta specialty stores in town? Well, they don’t just get some dried packaged pasta and throw ’em some oregano and tomatoes and voila!, their pastas are all freshly spun out of semollina wheat, which is one of the coarser kind of durum. This brings a much chewier and more resilient palate than most commercial pastas.
Another selling point is their Neapolitan pizzas (or what the Japanese refer to as ナポリ[Napoli], which couldn’t be any more different from those thick, Americanized pizzas we all sinfully devour. Still, the thin and flavorful pizzas do have their signature thicker edges, not to mention that the pizza variety has been safeguarded with the European PDO status, so you won’t see pizza fights between the U.S. and Europe like how Malaysia and Indonesia fight about the origins of their food (and nasi goreng is definitely Indonesian!).
Although I never order salads eating out (waste of money when you can just throw raw veggies on a bowl at home), I was glad we did this one time. My boyfriend wasn’t feeling very well, and this is the only thing remotely appealing to his appetite that night. Popolamama’s Japanese mushroom salad (IDR 30,000) was also marked as a favorite among other salads on the menu, and it’s a bowl of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, bunashimeji, shiitake, and eringi mushrooms and garnished with kizami nori.
The wafu dressing made this salad so distinctive from any other salads you’ll ever try, especially if you hate vinaigrettes. It’s light, flavorful, and blends beautifully with the ingredients on this salad – I’m starting to think anyone will start eating healthier if you just add the classic Japanese rice vinegar and soy sauce combo on your veggies. For someone who splashes apple cider vinegar on her face and hates tomatoes, this is definitely a good one. The 3 types of fleshy mushrooms in the mix was a great complement to the crunchy greens too (they’re fresh).
Then I had this whole Aperoncino basil with potato and chicken sausage (IDR 60,000) all for myself. There are extra garnishes you can add for an additional charge:
- Chicken sausage (+IDR 6,000)
- Smoked beef (+IDR 5,000)
Since this is supposed to be a pesto-dressed pasta, I was disappointed with how it turned out – no basils, no pine nuts, no thick blends and absolutely no cheese. BUT (and it’s a big but here), I love garlic and olive oil, and there’s PLENTY of garlic and olive oil here. My point is, the menu was misleading – I thought I was getting a thicker pesto sauce but what I got is more like aglio olio.
If you love garlic and olive oil as well, you will love this, and I’m 100% sure about that. It’s funny how it never crossed your mind that baked potatoes can taste this great with chicken sausage, and how little umami you need to have such a delicious meal for yourself – this is rich, thick, comforting and such a generous serving. It’s just like how your mom would make it at home if you have a pasta-craving, garlic-loving, olive-devouring tummy.
Then we had the tomato pizza with cheese and rucola (IDR 55,000), and I gotta be honest, I picked this pizza out of all because I read the last 2 items on its description on the menu: “With cherry tomatoes, rucola, mozzarella, and cheddar cheese.”
It’s the only pizza that has more than one type of cheese in it. So YEAH BABY.
As much as I love breads, cheese is my jam. I ended up biting off the thin crusts and leaving the tougher crust for my boyfriend (because he loves breads too, though not a cheese monster). Since arugula is one of my favorite leafy greens to eat raw, this pizza left me a great impression of Popolamama on me. The signature Italian arugula-tomato-plenty of cheese combo was clearly present here, although I know I’m biased because this pizza is practically Margherita with arugula instead of basil. Nevertheless, this pizza (and the rest of the items we’ve tried) gets my stamp of approval for remaining quite faithful to the traditional preps of Italian cuisine, since authenticity is declining in the food chain business.
Now I’m tempted to try out the first Popolamama outlet in Indonesia (at Sudirman Plaza), since they’ve done a good job in a mall outlet. The staff was warm and polite, although I didn’t really enjoy the “open” atmosphere. I’m sure you introverts can relate to this feeling you ever feel “exposed” with so many people squeezed into a space without walls. Ideally you don’t schedule your first date here, but the air certainly welcomes good friends and family to dine in.
Have you tried any of the 3 Popolamama outlets? (see below for details). What have you tried and how was the food for you?
Grand Indonesia Shopping Town
West Mall, Level 3A Unit 09
Jl. M. H. Thamrin No. 1
Jakarta Pusat 10310
+62 (0)21 2970 4981
Visit Facebook page at Popolamama Indonesia
Follow @Popolamama_ID on Twitter
or @popolamamaindonesia on Instagram
M – S 10:00am – 10:00pm
Sudirman Plaza/Indofood Tower
Jl. Jendral Sudirman Kav. 76-78
Jakarta Pusat 12910
+62 (0)21 2358 0415
Mall Taman Anggrek
4th Floor #457B
Jl. Letjen S. Parman Kav. 21
Jakarta Barat 11470
+62 (0)21 2970 4981 (ext: 111)